Bright Eyes ain’t over (again); Oberst ‘out of the music business’; Kasher’s new vid; Lazy-i Vault, Aug. 2000: The Music Box lifts smoking ban…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:01 pm August 24, 2011

by Tim McMahan,

A couple interesting new Conor Oberst interviews have surfaced in the past couple days. Both restate what Oberst has been saying for months — Bright Eyes will not be deep-sixed, sun-setted, placed in mothballs and/or permanently unplugged after support tours for The People’s Key conclude.

In a brief Q&A at Canada’s MetroNews site, Oberst again tried to clarify an earlier statement regarding Bright Eyes reported demise: “No, not definitively. We don’t really have any plans for the future at this point, but as far as that whole thing, that was something where someone took a quote that I said [out of context] and that was something that other people decided. We never made an official announcement. Even if it were our last record, we wouldn’t say it was our last record. As the rumour mill works, that’s kind of the way it goes. You can definitely quote me, this is not the last Bright Eyes for sure.”

Oberst reiterated the statement again in this story at In addition to the breakup denial, the story states that Oberst has no definite plans for any project, including Monsters of Folk or a solo effort. The article also says that Oberst is now living in New York City, though let’s be honest, these days he’s living on the road.

And then there’s this from the article:

Oberst has “gotten out of the music business” in regards to his former label ventures, with Saddle Creek and Team Love. Were he to release an album next year, he’s not even positive what label it’d be on. “Will there even be records in a couple years?” he asked. When it comes to digital channels and pay models like newly launched Spotify, “It’s still sort of the Wild West.”

Though Saddle Creek doesn’t sign multi-release agreements with its artists, I’ve always assumed that any future Bright Eyes LPs would be released on the label, and I still do…

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Speaking of Saddle Creek artists, Tim Kasher has a new video, produced by the crazy kids at Love Drunk, for “Opening Night,” a track off his just-released EP Bigamy, More Songs from the Monogamy Sessions. Try as I might, I can’t get the video to imbed into my WordPress files, so here’s a link. Check it out. It was shot at Saddle Creek’s Ink Tank screen printing plant.

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From the Lazy-i Vault, Aug. 24, 2000: The Music Box had a surprise in store last week. Walking up the venue’s ramp to the front door, you knew something was definitely up. Where was the huddled mass of smokers who usually crowded the deck, sharing ashtrays along with their addiction? Once inside, an old familiar odor answered the question. 

I asked a bartender when they had lifted the prohibition on smoking, a feature that the owners staunchly stood behind when the venue opened a year ago.

“Last Wednesday,” he hollered over the racket.

“Why’d they change their policy?” I yelled.

“To make money.”

Well, it wasn’t all about the Benjamins, Manager J. Rankin said. “This is what the people wanted,” he said. “In all honesty, I would like to see the nonsmoking thing still work, but it’s tough to pull off in the Midwest.”

The idea must have been in the works for a few weeks, judging by the cool little black-and-silver matchboxes embossed with The Music Box logo scattered around the tables. Smoking is limited to the upper-tier bar, as no-smoking signs are everywhere in the lower section. Despite the fact that nary a puff can be smelt in the lower bar, Rankin said further precautions are being taken to keep the smoke out of your eyes. “We’re in the process of adding an additional 15 tons of ventilation,” he said. “The units have 12-inch-thick charcoal filters that take everything out of the air.”

Chances are the fancy air conditioners won’t be up and running for this Saturday’s American Diabetes Association benefit featuring eight bands, including Spiral Locomotive, Project Wet, 8th Wave, The Fonzarellies, Jimmy Skaffa and Chesire Grin. A $10 donation gets you in to the festival-like party that runs from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

 Other upcoming acts of note include legendary harmonica player and bluesman Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, along with the Shufflecats and Lincoln’s Baby Jason and the Spankers Aug. 30; and the reigning father of British Blues John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Sept. 18.

Rankin insists the bar isn’t turning into a blues club. “We’re adding about one blues event a month, which is about the maximum for us on a regular basis,” he said, pointing to an upcoming show featuring former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde Oct. 7.

But what about the local acts? “There’s a multitude of great bands out there we haven’t had in yet, but there’s only so many days in a week,” he said.

Business is good at the Music Box, Rankin said, but there’s still a lot of work to do. “Once summer is over, all the alternative things going on will disappear. We’ll come to our own this fall and winter because of lack of options in town.”

Back to the Present: After lifting its smoking ban, the Music Box stayed open only three more years, closing its doors in October 2003 after an “impasse” with the landlord (or so they said at the time). With what many believed was among the area’s best sound and lighting systems at the time, the club booked a number of interesting national and local bands, including Pinetop Seven, Richard Thompson and locals like Oil and The Good Life. They catered toward more of a mainstream clientele, only occasionally booking indie bands. Strangely, its biggest criticism came from those who thought the club was too sterile, too clean, “too nice.” A few years after it closed, the building that housed The Music Box — and Sharky’s and Firmatures before that — was demolished to make way for a new 24-Hour Fitness.

As for their original non-smoking policy, The Music Box proved to be way ahead of its time, being the only music club that banned the habit back then. Four years after it closed, The Slowdown would adopt the same policy when it opened in June 2007. A year later, a local ordinance banned smoking  altogether in Omaha bars, in June 2008.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.